BBC Comedy Director Jon Petrie has set out his vision for the future of BBC Comedy at the BBC Comedy Festival in Newcastle.
Petrie announced that the BBC would invest an extra £10 million in “high-impact” comedy programming over the next two years and that BBC Comedy would double the number of half hour pilots made and will continue to ‘remain the biggest investor in comedy in the UK.’ “We’re going to double the number of half hour pilots that we make. They will be better funded, and they will all be non-TX. We want to show much less of our homework, allowing time and space to fail and for our new series to arrive as fully formed as possible,” he said.
Petrie, who took on the role last year, also announced specials of both Detectorists and Bad Education as well as recommissions for Jerk, The Cleaner and Guilt and a full series for Mawaan Rizwan’s Juice.
He also announced that BBC Comedy and BBC Sounds will co-commission up to four audio comedy pilots and BBC Comedy Short Films will launch in June, consolidating current short form strands to “create a space for both new and established talent to experiment and develop new work.”
“We’ve rethought our approach to short form and talent. We’re consolidating ‘Laugh Lessons’, ‘Threesomes’ and ‘Comedy Shorts’ into the ‘BBC Comedy Short Films’. These self-contained films will help to shine a light on some of the best upcoming talent on and off screen with much more importance placed on the short film idea, rather than whether the idea could end up becoming a TV show. Again, this is all with the aim of making the development more meaningful for talent and offer them the opportunity to enter the major short film competitions and platforms like Vimeo’s short of the Week and of course, pride of place on iPlayer.”
Current writing bursaries will be expanding into the ‘BBC Comedy Bursary Collective’, that will also ‘give up and coming comedy directors and producers a place to hone their craft.’
In terms of his commissioning direction, Petrie said “More than anything else we want shows that connect with our audience – whether they’re big and broad or weird and provocative. Worlds that the audience can see themselves in often connect in the deepest way – it’s no accident that it’s the family home and the workplace that have proved the most enduring settings for sitcoms. Some of the most creatively brilliant and popular shows of the last couple of years like Ghosts and Motherland have that classic DNA in them but we get pitched comparatively few of those kinds of shows. So, bring us more!”
He also called for shows “that feel uniquely British” and “shows set in the Nations, genuine portrayal stories and we want to do more for disabled talent” and he said “We really care about diverse voices, and diversity on screen and we want our shows to be relevant and resonant the to the whole BBC audience.”
Petrie also called for ideas with “relatable British characters with an angle we’ve not seen before, and we want high joke rates. We also want shows that talk to younger audiences.”
He said that attached talent was less important for the BBC. “When it comes to talent, unlike a lot of our competitors, we really don’t need to sell our shows on a name, the most important thing is the characters, the idea and the quality of writing. We like our series to be lightly serialised, but equally, it’s great when a viewer can jump into any episode.”
In terms of shows “lower down on the BBC Comedy Wishlist” Petrie said he was currently “well served for comedy drama, comedy thriller, and sketch shows, but we totally understand you might want to send to us anyway, and don’t let us stop you. Just be aware that we get sent them a lot and opportunities are currently more limited in these areas.”
Newly announced commissions
Juice (BBC Three)
Juice follows Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan) who desperately wants to be the centre of attention, but his family are constantly stealing his thunder. Mum, Farida (Shahnaz Rizwan), always makes everything about her, Dad, Saif (Jeff Mirza), ignores him and brother, Isaac (Nabhaan Rizwan), steals the limelight at work – the one place Jamma feels like he’s doing well. And when he finally does get the validation from boyfriend Guy (Russell Tovey), he can’t handle it. Jamma’s hyperactive imagination goes into overdrive and the world transforms around him in this surreal comedy, written and created by Mawaan Rizwan.
Mawaan Rizwan says: “I feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to make my dream project. It’s about a guy who loves attention and makes everything about himself. It is NOT autobiographical.”
Jonathan Blyth, Director of Comedy for BBC Studios said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the wonderfully talented Mawaan and partnering with Various Artists and BBC Three on this hugely ambitious show, which will be a real treat for audiences around the world.”
Juice (6 x 30) is a VAL production for BBC Three and BBC iPlayer with international distribution from BBC Studios. The director is Rosco Five and the producer is Hannah Moulder. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Tanya Qureshi.
After a five year absence, triple BAFTA winning comedy, Detectorists, is to return later this year for a one-off 75 minute special.
A warm, funny, honey dripped drama Detectorists follows the travails of two metal detecting hobbyists, Lance and Andy, as they negotiate the beautiful gentle rhythms of the English countryside.
Detectorists launched in October 2014 and there have been 19 half hour episodes since, this long form version of the show will bring viewers up to date with the lives of Andy, Lance, Becky and the Danebury Metal Detecting Club.
Director, writer and star of the show Mackenzie Crook is looking forward to this film length version of his creation, he said: “It was 2017 when we were last in Danebury and I miss my old friends in the DMDC. I’ve had a story percolating for a while and I thought it was worth getting Lance, Andy and the rest of the band back together for. The affection expressed for Detectorists over the years has been incredible and I hope fans of the show will enjoy this new, extended episode.”
Producer Gill Isles said: “It’s absolutely thrilling to be spending the summer back in Danebury with Mackenzie and the team. There is so much love for the show that I can’t wait for everyone to see what Mackenzie has in store in this next chapter.”
The show is a Treasure Trove Productions, Channel X North and Lola TV production. The Director is Mackenzie Crook is Director, the Producer is Gill Isles. The Executive Producers are Mackenzie Crook and Lisa Thomas for Treasure Trove / Lola TV and Alan Marke and Jim Reid for Channel X North. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Emma Lawson.
Bad Education (BBC Three)
Bad Education to return for a one-off, 10-year anniversary special episode (1×45), followed by the launch of a brand new series (6×30), which will air on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer.
The special episode of Bad Education, will reunite useless teacher and big kid Alfie Wickers (Jack Whitehall) with his old students one last time as they return to Abbey Grove for a joyfully chaotic careers day. The special marks a fond farewell to Jack Whitehall’s character Alfie and will be written by co-executive producers Whitehall and Freddy Syborn.
Meanwhile, Bad Education the series welcomes a brand-new intake of unruly students to Abbey Grove as two former classmates, world class diva Stephen (Layton Williams) and soon-to-be-family-man-with-responsibilities Mitchell (Charlie Wernham) find themselves at the other side of the desk as newly qualified – or not – teachers.
Written by a team of breakthrough writers led by Nathan Bryon, and including Laura Smyth, Leila Navabi, Priya Hall, Ciaran Bartlett, Rhys Taylor and Layton Williams, the eagerly awaited new series will see Stephen and Mitchell get to grips with their new career and wayward students, all whilst new headteacher and control freak Ms Hoburn looms large. Meanwhile, recently departed head Mr Fraser (Mathew Horne) and his questionable ‘bants’ continues to hang around the school in various lowly roles as HR struggle to fire him. Freddy Syborn will direct the series whilst Jack Whitehall will serve as executive producer.
Jack Whitehall says: “I’m so pumped for a ten-year anniversary special of Bad Education, the show that launched my career. I have such fond memories and it will be great for the fans to check in and find out what class K have been up to since they left and if Alfie Wickers is still as much of a melt as they remember.
“The new rebooted series is so exciting. I’m so old and irrelevant I’ve decided it’s best I take more of a producer role with Bad Education, but we’ve assembled a young, talented group of writers led by the brilliant Nathan Bryon who will be carrying the torch.
“Charlie Wernham is his generation’s Danny Dyer but with less royal heritage. Hopefully being a lead in this will be a springboard to him doing a decade of violent Brit flicks about hooliganism. Layton Williams is a superstar. I honestly think one day he will be an EGOTT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, TV Choice Award winner). Abbey Grove and the new class K couldn’t be in safer hands.”
Richard Ackerman, co-executive producer at Jackpot adds: “We’re so delighted to be bringing this amazing show back for the 10 year anniversary special and catch up with Alfie at Abbey Grove for one final time. If it’s possible we’re even more excited to get the chance to do the rebooted series with the extraordinary Layton & Charlie. For Jackpot Productions to be making this show with Tiger Aspect is the cherry on the icing on the cake.”
David Simpson, Head of Comedy at Tiger Aspect says: “It’s so exciting to be returning to Abbey Grove. Jack and Freddy have written a wonderful script for the ten-year anniversary special and I can’t wait for people to see what the gang have been up to. I also can’t wait for people to meet the new cast at the school in the brand-new rebooted series, led by Layton and Charlie. It has been a joy being in the writer’s rooms with a hugely talented team of writers and this new series will follow in the footsteps of the original – packed full of jokes and brilliant set pieces that fans old and new are going to love.”
Bad Education series (6×30) is a co-production between Tiger Aspect (part of Banijay UK) and Jackpot Productions for the BBC. David Simpson will executive produce for Tiger Aspect, with Jack Whitehall and Richard Ackerman executive producing for Jackpot and Freddy Syborn also executive producing. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Tanya Qureshi.
Bad Education special (1×45) is co-written and co-executive produced by Freddy Syborn and Jack Whitehall. Freddy Syborn will direct both commissions. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Tanya Qureshi. Banijay Rights will distribute the series internationally.
Mobility (BBC Three)
Mobility is a comedy short for BBC Three, that follows three Huddersfield teenagers with nothing in common except that they all have to catch the mobility bus to school.
It’s the first day of 6th Form, and Mike (Jack Carroll) is looking forward to a bit of social mobility. He’s way better than the group of loser friends he’s somehow accrued, and aspires to higher things.
But for now Mike is stuck with Sunny, an upbeat and unapologetic geek, and Dan, a lad so acerbic he only communicates in put-downs. Mike thinks he can do better, but he’s going to find it hard to shake them off: Mike, Sunny and Dan all use the mobility bus. Mike has cerebral palsy, Sunny uses a wheelchair, and Dan Syndrome has Down’s Syndrome. So Mike, Sunny and Dan are trapped together, at least for the ride to school.
Jack Carroll says: “It has been a near lifelong ambition of mine to write and perform in a narrative comedy for the BBC. I’m delighted that this has taken the form of Mobility, a funny and irreverent look at the lives of teenagers with disabilities, and their daily mobility bus trip to college. Deep thanks to my token able-bodied colleagues (‘coz you’ve gotta have a couple on every production these days) – our brilliant producer Sam Ward and my excellent co-writer Tom Gregory for all the laughs and insight they’ve brought to the show, although as I keep telling them I can’t ‘just sort them out with a blue badge’.”
Sam Ward, executive producer for Test Mouse Productions: “During Lockdown, Jack and Tom’s Twitter stalking became so relentless that eventually I had no choice but to develop and produce their wonderful script with them, and I’m thrilled that my subsequent stalking of David Simpson lead to a co-production with Tiger Aspect. Mobility brings a unique comic perspective to the universal experience of mucking about at the back of the school bus.”
David Simpson, executive producer for Tiger Aspect says: “Jack Carroll is an outstanding comic performer and the script he has written with Tom Gregory is laugh out loud funny with joyful comic characters. Audiences are going to love Mobility.”
Mobility is written by comedian Jack Carroll (Ladhood, Trollied, Eaten By Lions) and Tom Gregory. It is directed by Akaash Meeda (Nova Jones, Almost Never). The producer is Sam Ward (Cunk on Earth, The Cleaner, Mandy). It is a Test Mouse Productions and Tiger Aspect Productions co-production for BBC3. Executive producers are David Simpson and Sam Ward. Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Ben Caudell.
Jerk 3 (BBC Three)
BAFTA nominated Tim Renkow (Funny Festival Live, Bobby and Harriet) to star in a third series of Jerk for BBC Three and iPlayer.
Further information to follow.
The Cleaner 2 (BBC One)
The UK’s favourite crime scene cleaner is back. Series 2 of The Cleaner sees Wicky (Greg Davies) encounter yet another variety of larger than life characters, all in the wrong place at the wrong time. And as his luck will have it, there’s also a pub in desperate need of mopping up.
Greg Davies says: “It was such a pleasure bringing Wicky and his gory career to life and I’m beyond thrilled we get to do it again. So thrilled that I intend not to mention how sweaty that hazmat suit gets under lighting. Put it like this, we had to burn it. Anyway, I’m still excited, thanks BBC.”
Series 2 is written by Greg Davies and one other co-writer per episode made up of a combination of established and emerging comedy talents – Paul Allen, Ronan Blaney, Barry Castagnola, Meg Stalter and Mike Wozniak.
Vivien Muller Rommel says: “We’re absolutely delighted to be back for a second series of the Cleaner, and the Christmas Special is going to be bloody marvellous, I promise”.
The Cleaner (6 x 30) is a Studio Hamburg UK production for BBC One written by and starring Greg Davies. The BBC Commissioner is Ben Caudell. The Exec Producer is Vivien Muller-Rommel and the Producer is Sam Ward. BBC Studios will distribute the series globally, excluding German language markets.
Guilt 3 (BBC Two)
Award-winning drama Guilt will return for a third and final series. Writer and Executive Producer Neil Forsyth will bring brothers Max (Mark Bonnar) and Jake (Jamie Sives) together again for one final adventure full of the trademark twists and turns that the series has become famed for.
The series, which is a co-production between BBC Scotland and BBC Two and produced by Expectation and Happy Tramp North, will also see the return of characters from both series. The second series ended with Max joining Jake in Chicago having left a trail of deception behind him.
As they return to Scotland, it becomes apparent the welcome they receive isn’t as warm or as straightforward as they might have hoped. As they battle threats both old and new, it remains to be seen whether they get the happy ending they crave or whether life conspires against them one more time.
Commenting on the recommission, writer Neil Forsyth said: “We always saw Guilt as a trilogy so I am thrilled to be writing a final act for Max, Jake and some of the others we have met along the way. It is a story that will range from Chicago to Scotland, as our characters seek a final redemption.”
The series is commissioned by Louise Thornton, Head of Commissioning at BBC Scotland and Jon Petrie, Commissioning Director, BBC Comedy. Gavin Smith and Gregor Sharp are commissioning executives for the BBC. Executive Producers are Nerys Evans for Expectation and Neil Webster for Happy Tramp North.
Commenting on the commission Louise Thornton said: “We are incredibly proud of Guilt. It was the first drama commission for the BBC Scotland channel in 2019 and we have been delighted with how it has been received by our audiences. To be able to bring it back for a third and final time gives us the chance to wrap up the story of Max and Jake which we know will involve some hair raising and edge of the seat moments which the audience have come to expect.”
In a joint comment, Executive Producers Nerys Evans and Neil Webster said: “We couldn’t be happier to be given the opportunity to complete the Guilt trilogy. Neil has crafted an incredible climax to the show that we can’t wait to share with viewers.”
Guilt will begin shooting on location in Scotland later this year. It will premiere on the BBC Scotland channel followed by a network showing on BBC Two, and will be available on BBC iPlayer.
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